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Students Searching for Scholarships Find Fees Instead

by Suada Kolovic

The cost of a higher education continues to skyrocket and many students have turned to scholarship search websites to secure funding to bridge the financial gap. Most would assume that using a reputable website would protect them from non-reputable scholarships but that’s not always the case: Students in Florida were upset recently after learning that the United Youth Fitness Scholarship – an award listed on Fastweb, the Sun Sentinel’s Teen Link page and Georgetown University’s financial aid page – charged students a fee to have their essay’s published on the scholarship’s website.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Full Sail University student Emilio Zedan was one of many students that applied for the $1,500 scholarship. Soon after he submitted his application, he received an email saying that although he didn’t win, he did receive an honorable mention and could have his essay posted on the scholarship's website for a $12.95 fee. But why? In email to the Orlando Sentinel, Quinn Cory – the site’s registrant and operator of several other for-profit scholarship sites – explained that the essay publication fees helped pay for the costs of the scholarship and to run the program, adding that his scholarships were 100-percent legal and within all of the bounds of law. (For more on the story, click here.)

Here at Scholarships.com, we understand that scholarship fees are, unfortunately, extremely common. That’s why we only list scholarships after they have been carefully reviewed and verified by our staff so that students will only see legitimate scholarships from organizations that don’t charge fees. By employing this rigorous approval process, we’ve been able to remain one of the most widely-used and trusted free college scholarship search and financial aid resources on the Internet and help students like you earn 100-percent free money for college.


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College Athletes Press NCAA for Share of Profits

by Suada Kolovic

College athletes enjoy certain perks – the strong possibility of a free education (we’re talking full-ride scholarships!), on-the-house room and board, complimentary textbooks and top-notch tutors – but with that territory comes a serious commitment to grueling practices and high expectations to excel on the field, all the while juggling a full course load. Sure, college athletes are considered amateurs in their sports but the fact remains that these students participate in a multi-million dollar industry. Should they be compensated? More than 300 football and men’s basketball players seem to think so.

In a petition to the NCAA, student athletes are requesting that more of the money generated by their teams to go directly to the athletes, both while they are in school and after they graduate. The document, which the National College Players Association provided to the Associated Press, urges the NCAA and college presidents to set aside “an unspecified amount of money from what it estimates is $775 million in recently acquired TV revenues in an ‘educational lock box’...where players could tap those funds to help cover educational costs if they exhaust their athletic eligibility before they graduate.” And that’s not all: The petition also calls for players to receive what’s left of the money allocated to them after they graduate – a step that could be considered by some as professionalizing college sports. (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think college athletes should get a piece of the multi-million dollar pie or is a free education (which will last a lifetime) compensation enough?


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Federal Mandate: All Schools Must Offer Net Price Calculators by October 29th

by Suada Kolovic

Here at Scholarships.com, we understand that trying to figure out how much a college education will actually cost you and your family is pretty confusing. With everything that goes into your financial aid packagegrants, loans, scholarships, etc. – the real cost of a college education is muddled in there…somewhere. But fear, not college bound students! All that’s about to change thanks to a mandate by the federal government: All colleges and universities receiving Title IV federal student aid must have net price calculators by October 29th.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the U.S. Department of Education instated the mandate in order to “provide a clearer view of the difference between the total cost of tuition and fees – commonly referred to as sticker price – and the net price, an estimate of the cost subtracting scholarships and grants.” Most students generally receive some institutional aid so the better they understand how much an institution is offering as whole, the better prepared they are to compare the financial aid packages offered by different schools.

What do you think of the federally implemented net price calculators? Do you think it will be an essential piece of the funding your college education puzzle?


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UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

UC Board Approves 9.6-Percent Increase

July 18, 2011

UC Students to Face Additional Tuition Hike

by Suada Kolovic

With the start of the fall semester just weeks away, University of California students can look forward to yet another tuition hike – a 9.6-percent increase, to be exact. On Thursday, the Board of Regents passed a $1,068 hike on top of a previously approved 8-percent hike for 2011-2012 school year. The regents voted 14-4 in favor of the second increase to cope with the $650 million cut in state funding for next year.

Undergraduate and graduate tuition for California residents will increase to $12,192 a year, not including room and board or campus fees. Now sure, that may not seem like much for college tuition but that’s a $1,890 (or 18 percent) increase from the amount UC undergraduates paid the previous year and more than three times what they paid a decade ago.

Leigh Mason, a fourth-year student and student government activist at UC San Diego, said the timing of the tuition increase so close to the fall term has families scrambling. “For a family and student to find that, means it's not only hard but for some impossible,” said Mason, of San Jose. “Why not go to each UC and cut some overhead before coming to us for more revenue?”

According to UC officials, financial aid and tax credits will cover the increased tuition for many families earning less than $80,000 a year and the tuition increases won’t be imposed this coming school year on many families earning less than $120,000 annually. What do you think of the timing of the tuition hike approval? Is it fair for families to face another increase in tuition so close to the start of the fall semester?


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Student Loan Delinquencies Continue to Rise

by Suada Kolovic

While credit card debt, mortgage debt and auto loan debt have all steadily decreased since the fall of 2008, the same cannot be said for outstanding student loan debt, which has climbed 25 percent since the start of the financial crisis. Not only has student debt increased, but more often than not these loans aren’t getting paid off on time. The problem is that students take out sizable loans to pay for tuition to only be met with bleak prospects of employment after college. Those lucky enough to secure a job can also expect lower starting salaries: The median starting salary for a member of the class or 2009 or 2010 is $27,000, down from $30,000 just a couple of years ago.

The debt ceiling deal complicated things a step further by adding additional federal loan provisions. One section of the deal changed the way interest is collected on federal loans for graduate students, meaning that borrowers will start accruing interest on their loans before they’ve graduated. That being said, earning a college degree is still a significant advantage when entering the job market. The Labor Department released a report stating that for workers 25 and over with at least a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate in July was 4.3 percent, compared with 8.3 percent for workers with "some college," and 9.3 percent for workers with just high school diplomas.

Soon-to-be college students, do you fear crippling student loan debt? What steps are you taking to prevent becoming a statistic?


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High Schools Seniors: 5 Things to do Before Summer’s Up

by Suada Kolovic

Ah, senior year. It’s a time chock-full with to-dos, from finalizing your college choice and filling out applications to applying for scholarships and getting your financial aid in order. And with summer slowly coming to a close, it’s a good time for rising high school seniors to realize that some deadlines are just around the corner. So rather than let the last weeks of summer slip away, avoid the fall time crunch and consider U.S. News and World’s top suggestions of five simple things you can do now:

  1. Examine school prices: Relying on just the sticker price when making your college selection is a huge mistake. For the most part, sticker prices are often meaningless. Take the time to do some serious research and understand the real cost of the institutions you’re interested in.
  2. Know deadlines: Keeping track of the various deadlines you’ll have to meet is essential for a successful senior year. In order to make things easier, use Scholarships.com’s calendar as a reference!
  3. Get started on your college essay: Writing a college essay is one of the most nerve-wracking chores high school seniors face. To relieve some of the pressure, start early. Think about it: If you start now, you’re more likely to be able to devote the time needed to do a great job.
  4. Consider supplemental materials: If you’re an artist, musician or actor, applying for colleges (and scholarships!) may be more time consuming. In some cases, you’ll have to audition and have an impressive portfolio to standout. Some schools also require SAT Subject Tests so find out and book exam dates now.
  5. Research: If you haven’t begun researching schools, get started now. Check out schools online, take virtual tours and really consider what qualities are most important to you. Think about what you want out of your college experience – whether it’s a school with a strong academic record, impressive athletic teams or diverse social programs and services – and take a hard look at whether you’re applying to schools for the right reasons.

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University of Dayton to Offer Free Textbooks

by Suada Kolovic

With the economy in a rut, the unemployment rate declining at a sluggish pace and the cost of a college education rising at an astronomical rate, now is the time to consider your options. Here at Scholarships.com, we can’t stress enough the importance of applying early and often for scholarships and financial aid, but when a college education is still just out of reach, some universities are willing to go the extra mile to help prospective students out. Rising high school seniors, take note: The University of Dayton is offering four years of free textbooks to first-year students who visit the campus and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the university’s March 1 application deadline.

According to Dayton officials, the free textbook program is an incentive for families to attend campus visits in a tight economy and as a way to urge families to complete the federal aid form, which is an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle. "Many families don't fill out the form because they believe they don't qualify or think it takes too much time. They miss out on opportunities to get affordable financing or grant funding," said Kathy McEuen Harmon, assistant vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Students who fulfill the university’s requirements will receive up to $500 per semester to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore – funds good toward new, used or rental books. According Harmon, an estimated 75 percent of the first-year class is projected to take advantage of the offer, representing a $1.5 million annual commitment by the University. "We want them to fully understand the rewards of a University of Dayton education and know that those rewards are not out of their reach," Harmon said. "This is a very tangible way to demonstrate our commitment, one they can see immediately."

What do you think of the University of Dayton’s efforts? Are free textbooks enough to get you to commit to an institution? Should others follow suit? Let us know what you think.


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Debt Deal Not So for Graduate Students

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a graduate student or considering graduate school, listen up: The debt deal reached by Congressional leaders and President Obama would make graduate school much more expensive.

According to the agreement, Congress would scrap subsidized federal loans for graduate students in an effort to trim the deficits. These loans don’t charge students any interest on the principal of student loans until six months after students have graduated; if they’re eliminated, some students will have to start paying back loans while they’re still in school. And if that isn’t bad enough, Congress will also ax a special credit for all students who make 12 months of on-time loan payments. The changes would take place July 1, 2012 and would save the government $21.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

For graduate students who do qualify for the maximum amount of subsidized loans, this new agreement could tack on thousands of dollars to the already staggering cost of going to school. The reason behind the changes is the theory that the money saved by the student loan cuts would help pay to keep Pell Grants, which so far are maintained at a maximum grant of $5,550 a year for some 8 million poor students. “Full funding for Pell Grants is absolutely essential to fulfilling the president's goal of the U.S. once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020," said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

Those considering graduate school, will these changes affect your decision to attend?


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Illinois DREAM Act Signed by Governor Quinn

by Suada Kolovic

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law Monday that provides undocumented immigrants access to private scholarships. The Illinois DREAM Act, which passed the state Senate by a wide margin in May, will create a “DREAM Fund” – a scholarship account funded entirely by private dollars that will provide scholarships to undocumented students seeking higher education.

Quinn called the new law “landmark” legislation. The DREAM Act – which borrows its name from a similar piece of federal legislation – will also encourage counselors to receive training on educational opportunities for undocumented students, as well as open up college savings programs and prepaid tuition programs to all Illinois residents. Unlike the federal bill, however, it will not provide a path to citizenship for those students.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also attended the Monday signing. “Immigrants are a driving force in our city’s cultural and economic life, and opening the way for all Chicago students to earn an excellent higher education will make our city even stronger," Emanuel said in a statement. “I am proud that families and students across Illinois will now have a better shot at the American Dream — which starts with a great education.”

What do you think of the legislation? Should other states follow in Illinois’ footsteps or do you think passing the DREAM Act will only encourage more illegal immigration?


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Helpful Tips on Maximizing Merit Aid

by Suada Kolovic

Figuring out the bottom line when it comes to the cost of your college education is definitely a stressful part of the process. With everything that goes into determining your financial aid package (your parents’ income, your earnings and your family’s net assets), it’s important to understand that merit aid – aid based on a student’s attributes (academics, athletics, extracurriculars, etc.) – is available to student regardless of their “need.” New federal rules are blurring the distinction between scholarships awarded on merit and grants awarded because of a student’s financial need – for instance, a growing number of colleges now award “need-based” aid to students from families earning six figures! Who would have thunk it?! So, we’ve compiled a few helpful tips to maximize your chances for merit aid and increase your overall financial aid package.

  • Fill out the FAFSA. Federal rules have changed. College aid officials are now allowed to award need-based aid to students whose parents earned decent salaries last year but have recently been laid off, as well as make accommodations for a family’s unique circumstances, such as high medical bills.
  • Apply to schools where you’d rank at the top. While your dream school might be an Ivy League, you should apply to at least a few colleges where your GPA would put you in the top 25 percent of the student body.
  • Apply to schools that offer generous need-based aid. In the 2009-10 academic year, Louisiana College reported that 88 percent of students were receiving non-need based financial aid. Do the schools you’re considering boast the same kind of aid?
  • Do the research. If you’re interested in a college, find out what it has to offer when it comes to merit aid. You might qualify for more awards than you think!
  • Before making a final decision, compare net prices. Consider the cost of attendance in its entirety including tuition and fees, room and board, books and transportation. The school that offers the most in merit aid might not be the best choice; sometimes the college offering the largest merit scholarship might have the highest net price because its tuition is higher.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Believe it or not, you have negotiating leverage when it comes to your merit aid package. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities and your first choice has a higher net price than your second choice, contact that institution! Some schools might be willing to match the merit aid offered, which would provide you the opportunity to attend your first choice school for less money!

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